Monday, August 26, 2013

3-Day Madness Approaches

The International 3-Day Novel Contest is about to be let loose for the umpteenth time since 1977. This is the event of the year for literary masochists. While the rest of the country relaxes and enjoys a long holiday weekend, writers scrunch down at their screens and pound out the words, attempting to write a complete novel in 72 hours.

Some choose to write in odd places--tree houses, bus depots, shop windows--but most simply lock themselves away in their studies with a Thermos of coffee or a jug of Jack Daniel's, and ignore the frantic pleas of their families.

One misses the cheerleading of Melissa Edwards, who for years kept the 3-Day event moving (she said she took the job to keep from ever entering the contest again) but we'll forge forward nonetheless. And here is a word of encouragement from Leonard Bernstein:

"To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan and not enough time."

Friday, August 23, 2013

Political Flashes from All Over

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Parka Boy of the Month, has announced that Nunavut may be given provincial status. Apparently the people of Nunavut gave the Conservative leader an offer he couldn't refuse: "Make us a province and we won't put you out on an ice floe."

National Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, who has more hair than all the other party leaders combined, has revealed that he has smoked marijuana. "However," he said,"I never claimed it as a business expense."

And finally, Ted Cruz, junior US Senator from Texas, has renounced his Canadian citizenship, even though born in Calgary. Not only that, he will no longer eat Canadian bacon or maple syrup, and he is giving away all his Neil Young recordings. This is the most serious blow to Canada since Conrad Black gave up his citizenship.

Today's specials in the Senate dining room:  Wallinburgers and Duffy Dogs.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Not all that pointless

Words by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, from the Jule Styne song "Make Someone Happy":

"When you've found her, build your world around her;
  Make someone happy--make just one someone happy--
  And you will be happy too."

Good night.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Elmore Leonard, Final Chapter

Elmore Leonard, 87 years, 46 novels, innumerable short stories, has departed this world for wherever good writers go.

Someone once asked us if we were the guy "who turned the whole town on to Elmore Leonard." If we were, we consider it our public service.

The first of his novels to catch our eye was "Ryan's Rules" (later re-issued under the tile "Swag"). We found it at Mike's Newsstand on Jasper Avenue in Edmonton, the magazine shop with possibly the best neon sign in Canada. It was 1978.

After that, we grabbed all the Leonard titles as soon as they came out.  Of all those books, here are the ones we would happily read for the third or fifth time: "Unknown Man No. 89," "Fifty-two Pickup." "La Brava," "Killshot," "Gold Coast," "The Switch," "Pagan Babies," "Cuba Libre," "Out of Sight" and, back where we started, "Ryan's Rules."

Those are novels. Then there is a terrific short story collection: "When the Women Come Out to Dance."

At least a dozen films have been made from Elmore Leonard books, and he undoubtedly ended up making a lot more money than he made writing truck copy for a Detroit ad agency. Even so, Leonard (whose nickname was Dutch, after a long ago baseball player) had just one extravagance: Kangol caps in all the colors.

Okay, everybody out of here, and go read some Elmore Leonard.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Saving Room for Dessert

News that Dame Kiri Te Kanawa will impersonate Dame Nelly Melba on "Downton Abbey" made us think not of Australian opera divas, but of the culinary creations named for Dame Nelly: Melba toast and the infinitely more interesting Peach Melba.

Both these were creations of the legendary Auguste Escoffier, whose reputation tops that of a whole roomful of Iron Chefs. Melba toast is the thin, dry number once favored by dieters, while Peach Melba is an elegant arrangement of peach slices, vanilla ice cream and raspberry sauce. (This dish should not be confused with Peaches Melba, the exotic dancer, and a dish herself.)

Melba (whose real name was Helen Porter Mitchell--Melba was a play on Melbourne, her birthplace) was not the only music world notable to have a now classic recipe created for her. Another was  composer Gioachino Rossini. Thanks to him and his gourmandizing we have Tournedos Rossini: filet mignon sauteed in butter, topped with foie gras and truffle, served on a crouton, and laced with Madeira sauce. This was created by Marie-Antoine Careme. In Vancouver, it was prepared to a fine touch by Roland Stephan at Le Petit Montmartre.

Also in Vancouver, there was Flaming Peach Bellman at the Sir Walter Raleigh. This was created to honor broadcaster Bill Bellman, who told us he really didn't care much for the dish, but felt compelled to eat it anyway, every time went to dine at Ruben Kopp's restaurant.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Name, Please

It has been reported that courts and government offices have the power to prevent parents naming their children as they wish, if the proposed names are considered a cause for confusion, embarrassment, or are "on any other grounds objectionable."

Among names recently rejected by authorities: Grammophon, Lucifer, Metallica, Ikea, Q, Anus (whoo!) and our favorite, Tulula Does the Hula.

Then there were names for twins turned down (the names turned down, not the twins). These included Benson and Hedges and Fish and Chips. No word on Cash and Carry, Sweet and Lovely, Sturm und Drang, or Hot and Humid.

We are reminded of the paterfamilias somewhere in the American south who wanted all his children--about nine of them, whether boys or girls--named after him. And so each had the same name, which was something like Lemuel. This might have caused confusion in the household, but the mother solved the problem by addressing the children as numbers--Lem One, Lem Two, and so on.

Apparently, no law against that. Yet.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Let Us Now Praise Famous Women

Yet another woman of note departed this planet the past week. She was Karen Black, the slightly quirky actress one remembers from "Five Easy Pieces," Robert Altman's "Nashville," and a bizarre Satanic drama called "The Pyx," filmed in Montreal, and probably the only picture in which Christopher Plummer is seen in his jockey shorts.

But the roles we remember with most pleasure were in "Drive, He Said," in which she lounges in her bath tub listening to Billie Holiday; Hitchcock's "Family Plot," a black Black comedy with her as the femme fatale; and, best of all, Henry Jaglom's 1983 "Can She Bake a Cherry Pie?", subtitled "An Odd Romance," which indeed it was.

If there were any DVD shops left, we would urge you to run out and find these. But alas, most of the DVD outlets--like the charmingly offbeat Karen Black--are gone.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Adieu, Eydie

The passing of Eydie Gorme, sweet songstress of the Bronx, deserves note.

The petite brunette with the electrifying high range was not a classic jazz singer, but her work was at the highest standard of pop, and her ornamentation was always on the edge of jazz. We remember, still with a degree of awe, her early recordings of "I'll Take Romance,""Saturday Night is the Loneliest Night of the Week" (she was a lifelong Sinatra worshipper) and "Be Careful, It's My Heart."

Eydie Gorme was one of the singers who gained wide attention first on Steve Allen's "Tonight show," along with Steve Lawrence (whom she was to marry) and Mark Murphy (who sang Allen's best song, "This Could Be the Start of Something Big").

The Allen show was the start of big things for a lot of people, but this is a day to remember Eydie Gorme. She died six days short of her eighty-fifth birthday, Lawrence by her side. Sentimental fans everywhere will be saying be careful, it's our heart.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Your Serve, Minister

It is just us, or have others noted the uncanny resemblance of Milos Raonic and Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird?

The similarity doesn't end there. Raonic is noted for his blistering serve on the tennis court (155.3 mph), and who hasn't been blown away or flattened by Baird's verbal serves (160 mph of rage and invective)  in Parliament?

We hope someday to see them at work together--the all-Canadian Batman and Robin.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Penalty for Cheekiness

Calgary Stampeders running back Jon Cornish, after scoring his fourth touchdown in the recent Stampeders-Roughriders game (which the Stamps won, to the distress of watermelon-wearing Saskatchewan fans), handed the ball to a Roughriders defensive back who had failed to prevent him crossing the goal line. This playful action resulted in a ten-yard penalty for Cornish's team.

What, a penalty for cheekiness? We can imagine the official scolding Cornish: "Did you see the tears welling up in that man's eyes? How could you be so insensitive? Ten yards, and don't let it happen again."

One might think this an isolated incident, but no--for some time, CFL officials have been penalizing players for actions which they deem disrespectful. Emmanuel Arceneaux, the BC Lions large-handed wide receiver, drew a fine from the league for pretending to play golf with the ball and an end zone pylon. League official: "Shame on you, Arceneaux! That was disrespectful to the football, the game of golf, and possibly Tiger Woods."

This reminds us of the Monty Python sketch in which gangsters were terrorizing their victims by using sarcasm. This may be what CFL officials fear--a reign of gridiron terror marked by high jinx in the end zone.

We can only hope that when the CFL Commissioner presents the Grey Cup this November at Mosaic Stadium in Regina, no one on the winning team makes a joke. They might take the Cup back.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Happy Trails

Our Branson, Missouri correspondent reports that the Roy Rogers Museum has closed, with, presumably, the curators riding off into the sunset, singing "Happy Trails to You."

What happened to all the spurs, boots, guitars, sequined cowboy shirts and other memorabilia? All sold at auction. A pair of spurs went for $10,625. Two BB guns brought $3,730. Roy and Dale's family Bible sold for $8,750--the gospel truth, we are not making this up. Roy's hat netted $17,500.

There was also a fine collection of baseball treasures, which, for some reason, went for relatively low prices. A baseball signed by Don "Perfect Game" Larsen sold for $2,500. Bats signed by Yogi Berra, Bob Feller and Enos Slaughter brought $2,750--almost $8,000 less than a pair of spurs.

But the big question we know is on your mind: what did Trigger sell for? The answer: $266,500.

Imagine the reaction of the buyer's wife when he came home and said, "Look, Honey--I just bought us a stuffed horse!"

It will look great in their living room.